Make America Sick Again
Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republicans have been itching to repeal Obama’s signature accomplishment. They want to destroy any trace of his legacy, so they’ve had the ACA in their crosshairs. After winning the election they said it would be its top priority to “repeal and replace” this popular program. They already have the bill ready, and yet they don’t even have a plan to replace it. This prompted new Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to come up with a beautiful sound-bite: the GOP wants to Make America Sick Again. They wouldn’t dare throw 20 million Americans off health care, would they? No, even Republicans aren’t that crazy. But I guarantee you that whatever they come up with it will cost more.
Their talking points tell you that, if you read between the lines. When they say patients should be more involved, have “more skin in the game,” what do you think they’re talking about? When they say patients need to take more responsibility for their health care, it means more out-of-pocket expenses to the patient, nothing less. If you’re having chest pains or stroke symptoms are you going to go through the Yellow Pages and price various Emergency Room fees? That’s what they mean by more “choice, a word they also use to justify private charter schools that drain funding from public ones. They just love choice (except when it comes to women’s reproductive rights). It would be bad enough if all they were after was Obamacare, but they have Medicare and Medicaid in their sights, as well. It brings to mind then Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on the House floor satirizing Republicans’ health care plan: No. 1 — Don’t get sick. No. 2 — If you do get sick, die quickly. They’re going to turn Obamacare into Wedon’tcare. I know Trump says all Americans will have health care, but who the hell would believe a pathological liar like Trump?
Speaker Paul Ryan has said they plan to make Medicare into a voucher program, and Medicaid to be block granted to the states. A Medicare patient would receive a voucher for a few thousand dollars, and they’re supposed to shop around for the best deal. Choice, you see. Of course, if you have a serious illness like diabetes or cancer, that voucher is going to get you nothing but laughter from any clinic or hospital. The CBPP, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, reports that the average 65-year-old would pay an additional $6000 per year with Ryan’s plan, versus current Medicare costs.
The plan for Medicaid is far worse, a tragic irony, in that it serves the most needy. Medicaid serves 73 million Americans per year. Eligibility depends on income, household size, disabilities, and other factors, and the government matches states’ expenses dollar for dollar. The Medicaid expansion of the ACA uses only income, with the idea of covering everyone below a certain percent of the poverty level. The Supreme Court ruled that states can’t be forced to accept the expansion, so it’s on a state level, and of course the red states mostly refused it. The government will cover all additional enrollees at 100% from 2012-2016, and at 90% after that. Pretty good deal, eh? Well, many Republican states would rather allow more of their citizens to be uncovered that to make Obamacare look good.
What Ryan wants to do with Medicaid is give the states block grants, which the government would not match. Right away you’ve just cut the funding in half, haven’t you? It would also give states more authority to establish qualifications, leading to widely different coverage state to state. And once they ran out of funding, they either have to raise the money themselves or cut back on services. You know how that’s going to go, especially in the red states who gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy while implementing austerity measures on everyone else, resulting in crippling budget deficits. And oh my God, let’s not forget the war on Planned Parenthood, the prime target of the pro-fetus people (they are not pro-life). About 3% of their services are abortion-related, and they receive government funding.
I did a lot of research on this, because I want to get my facts as squarely set as possible. Planned Parenthood serves about 2.5 million people annually. It gets about $500 million from the U.S. government, about 40% of its funding. This comes from two programs, Medicaid and Title X, which was part of the U.S. Public Health Act (1970) to provide family planning services. Then in 1977 came the Hyde Amendment (a rider on an appropriation bill) that banned federal funds from being used for abortions. In 1994 it was itself amended to allow abortion in any of three cases: rape, incest, or the mother’s life being in danger. So I guess you have to say that Planned Parenthood cannot use any federal money for its abortion services. But money if fungible, I can see the controversy. What boggles my mind is that the same people who are anti-abortion are also against the best means of preventing it — access to birth control. As a far-leftie most of my life, I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of abortion. At the same time I support the rights of women, as well as trust them, to know what’s best for their own bodies. On Jan. 5th Paul Ryan announced their effort to defund Planned Parenthood, as part of the legislation repealing the ACA.
Another canard in the Republicans’ snake-oil cure for health costs is their preachment of health savings accounts (HSAs). They say that will take care of those high deductibles. They’re blowing smoke up our asses, and they know it. Most working poor can’t afford to sock ANY money away; in fact, they seem to be getting further behind all the time. A year ago this month Forbes reported on a survey by Banknote.com. It said 63% of Americans couldn’t come with $500 for an emergency, and that 66 million Americans had no savings account. A similar finding came out last April from the Federal Reserve, that nearly half of Americans couldn’t raise $400. A Pew survey in November 2015 found that a third of Americans had no savings at all. The numbers vary, but it’s all bad.
Republicans like to talk about patients needing to take more responsibility for their health care. Translation: get ready to pay more. They talk about having ‘skin in the game.’ Here’s a good example of what they’re talking about. Last December Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga’s 10-year-old son fell and injured his arm. They thought it could be a sprain or even broken, but the congressman and his wife decided to bind up the arm and sort of, you, know, ‘splint’ it, and take him into the doctor the next morning. Huizenga explained to the media that he didn’t want to pay the exorbitant emergency room costs. He weighed cost against health, and figured his son could probably make it till morning. Give him an aspirin. And watch for their snake oil magic word, “access.” All Americans will have access to health care. That is, they are able to walk into a clinic or hospital. That doesn’t have anything to do with being able to afford that health care.
Don’t worry, though. The Republicans wouldn’t dare to repeal Obabacare and throw their own constituents off health care. In fact as I write this (Jan. 11) they’ve all of a sudden backed away. Paul Ryan now says a replacement plan (which they still don’t have) would be concurrent with the repeal, which is hopeful. Do you wonder why they haven’t been able to come with their own plan in eight years? Maybe, as Thom Hartmann suggests, that’s because Obamacare is their plan. It’s very close to the one Nixon came up with in 1972, then in 1986 the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation fine-tuned it, and that’s what Mitt Romney implemented as Governor of Massachusetts in 2000!
But really, what the hell is it with these people, anyway? Do they really hate poor people or are they just sociopaths, and don’t give a damn? Both, actually. You have to understand, there are two separate toxic viruses running through the conservative bloodstream: Calvinism and libertarianism. Calvinism is the gospel of prosperity. John Calvin was a 16th Century fanatic who asked how do we choose those who should govern us, and decided they should be people God has blessed. How to tell? Well, the wealthy are obviously favored by God, as they are wealthy. That leads to the polarity that ergo, the poor are immoral, lazy (or they’d be rich), and unworthy of our attention. The Lord helps him that helps himself.
Libertarians have swallowed the poisonous Kool-Aid of Ayn Rand. Their “theology” is that if everyone selfishly follows their own aspirations and desires to the complete exclusion of everyone else, it will all magically work out. No taxes or intrusive government regulations — just the wild wild west of predatory capitalism. That’s why it’s called magical thinking. Libertarians appear to have all the characteristics of classical sociopaths. You know something else? I have yet to meet a poor libertarian. This stuff is like a theology to these people. We’ll be lucky if all they take is our health care.
If you feel like crying, as I do, I’ve found the best treatment is laughter. Here’s part of a recent article in The Onion: “GOP Promises Americans Will Be Able To Keep Current Medical Conditions.” It goes on, Paul Ryan saying, “In fact, for the vast majority of Americans, repealing Obamacare will actually increase the numbers of significant medical conditions available to them.”